In July 2009 my wife and I listened to Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I could relate to many of the things that Mr. McDougall wrote about in the book. For example, why is it that my kids are constantly bouncing around, running from place to place and doing it with a smile while I dread the thought of running. I liked the idea of running but always thought of it as my punishment for eating too many cookies or an extra helping of cheese cake. Why is do kids LOVE to run and I hate it? The book goes on to describe some amazing ultra runners and makes the case that we, as humans, were born to run. This book inspired me start running.
A few weeks later a friend of mine bought a new house and was selling his treadmill. Perfect! We bought it and immediately started running on it on a regular basis. I started out slow... jogging at a 4.5 or 5 with an incline of 3 or 4. I quickly progressed from jogging for ten minutes and walking for twenty to running at a 6 or 7 for an hour at a time. This was a great beginning but I soon realized that running on a treadmill, while better than not running at all, is NOT the same as running outside.
It was about that same time that I also paid a visit to family and friends back in Columbus, OH. In the book Mr. McDougall talks about the benefits of bare foot running and minimal foot wear. One of the shoes he mentions, and wears, are the Vibram Five Fingers. I knew that a running store in Columbus carried them, The FrontRunner, and so my wife and I paid a visit. We originally went to get a pair for my wife however we ran into a few problems.
1. The shoe store staff required that we try on the Vibrams with injini socks. The problem with this is that the Vibram KSO's are made to fit pretty tight. Trying to squeeze my feet into the Vibrams with the injini socks was pretty much impossible.
2. Due to the sock issue, my wife decided that they were too uncomfortable and decided not to buy a pair. On a whim I asked if they had any in my size (43) and they said they did. I tried them on and and noticed the same thing my wife did... The toes were too tight wearing socks. So, I asked the salesman to check for different colors and after he left I pulled off the socks and tried them on again. They were a perfect fit! We didn't really have the money to spare but I went ahead and bought them.
I wore them for the rest of the day as I drove around Columbus picking up both my brother and sister from the airport. They felt extremely odd on my feet and driving in them was a new experience. It was basically like walking barefoot... regardless, pretty much everyone that saw them (my brothers, sister, mom and dad) made fun of me. I received quite a few, "Gorilla Fee," comments and became the butt of a few jokes. However, I really enjoyed wearing them and since them have worn them in all kinds of weather in a number of activities.
About the same time I purchased the Vibrams I decided to attempt to run the Laurel Highland Endurance Run (LHER). Shortly after wards my Dad told me that he would do it with me (yeah, I probably get my love of riding the crazy train from him so I'm not really surprised he would consider doing it with me). It is a 70.5 mile run along the Appalachian trail in June 2010. Now when I mention this to most people their first question is, "... so how many marathons have you run?" My response is pretty simple. None. In fact until July of 2009 I'm pretty sure I never ran more than three miles straight. That usually leads to people thinking that I am crazy (and I don't rule it out) but the idea of man being able to run extreme distances appeals to me. To add frosting to my crazy cake I have decided that I will probably do the run in my Vibram KSO's. There are a lot of reasons why I have decided to do this and I will detail those reasons in my later posts however, suffice it to say that I find running trails in my Vibrams a quasi religious experience. I feel very connected with what I am doing and world around me (I'll try to stay away from too much of the "spiritual connection" mumbo jumbo in my write ups.
Since I decided to do the LHER I started scouring the internet for blogs related to ultra marathon training, blogs, hints, tips, etc. I found a number of blogs that have provided me with some great ideas and insights however, none of runners are using the Vibrams. I found some great Vibram websites but very little practice advice related to wearing them for running long distances and dealing with the smell (if you have a pair of KSO's you know what I mean). Consequently, I will be documenting my training and insights I learn about the Vibrams as I go along. Due to the fact that it is December and I have been running for close to four months I will do some retroactive postings in order to describe some of the lessons I learned. My hope is that other individuals with either own Vibrams or are thinking about buying them will be able to learn from my experiences and/or provide their own.